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The Los Angeles Woman's Building: A Public Center for Woman's Culture

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

The Woman's Building in Los Angeles is a setting for the discovery, creation, and presentation of woman's culture. Its existence expresses a mutually supportive relationship with a participating public. The visual and physical forms of the building and the activities it houses are tangible evidence of a community informed by women's history and are appropriate to their contemporary needs and desires for the future.

As an alternative physical context, the Woman's Building is strategically placed between the private house, in which woman's culture was confined and isolated, and the professional system that devalues and renders it dysfunctional. As a public center, the Woman's Building extends woman's culture, sharing it with a large constituency. Its existence and persistence validates women's actions in the world from a base of mutual support and communitarian values.

This chapter considers the four years of the Woman's Building's existence, during which it has generated a wide variety of private and collective enterprises: woman's art, woman's words, woman's music, and woman's social forms. The chapter deals particularly with the role of the physical environments in which the Woman's Building has been housed: first in a two-story, unused art school building and then in a three-story warehouse. During this time the Woman's Building has been the locus of national conferences, local workshops, and classes attended by people from throughout the United States and abroad, joyous celebrations, organizations of protest, accidental and planned conversations, and occasional and continued involvement by

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